The tight negotiations between Ankara and Washington over the acquisition of the Patriot missile defense system linger as Turkey's intention remains indeterminate due to the U.S. stipulation of dropping the S-400 missile system as a precondition for the purchase.
The U.S. offer for the Patriot system is expected to be valid until March 31, however, as Washington has presented its offer on the condition that Turkey withdraw from the S-400 deal with Moscow, there have not been positive signals regarding the offer from the Turkish side due to its strong commitment to purchase the Russian-made systems.
Considering that Turkey has mainly been focusing on the upcoming local elections slated for March 31, the talks regarding the Patriots are likely to continue even after the deadline.
Furthermore, the issues regarding the purchase of the S-400 deal are expected to be discussed on the sidelines of Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu's visit to the U.S. to attend NATO's meeting of foreign ministers next week.
The Ankara-Moscow S-400 deal was inked in December 2017, when the parties signed a $2.5 billion agreement for two batteries of the systems, Russia's most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system. Turkey will be the first NATO member country to acquire the system.
Known as Triumf at home and Growler abroad, the S-400 has become necessary for Turkey's defense system. It is an upgraded version of the S-300 missile systems. The S-400 uses four missiles to fill its performance envelope: The very-long-range 40N6 (400 kilometers), the long-range 48N6 (250 kilometers), the medium-range 9M96E2 (120 kilometers) and the short-range 9M96E (40 kilometers).
Even though Turkish officials expressed that the S-400 is a done deal, the U.S. has been continuing its rhetoric imbued with warnings over the outcome of such a purchase. While Turkey has held out the prospect of buying both the S-400 and the Patriot system, the U.S. has warned Turkey it will take its offer of the Patriots off the table unless Ankara changes course.
The U.S. has been attempting to push Turkey for a reappraisal of its decision pointing that this step would trigger the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was introduced in July 2017 to be imposed on companies or countries doing business with Iran, Russia and North Korea. Another contending issue for the purchase of the S-400 missile system is that the U.S. stresses that they will reassess Ankara's participation in the F-35 fighter jet program and other potential future arms transfers to Turkey.
Washington has opposed Turkey's plans to buy Russia's S-400 air defense system, on allegations that it would "compromise" the Lockheed Martin-made F-35's security. The U.S. argues that the radars of the Russian S-400 missile system would be able to track and spot the F-35.
In the strongest signal yet from Washington that Ankara cannot have both the advanced aircraft and the S-400, officials have told Reuters the United States could soon freeze preparations for delivering the F-35 to Turkey.
Turkey has been in the F-35 program since 1999, and the Turkish defense industry, with 12 firms, has taken an active role in the production of the aircraft and invested $1.25 billion in the aircraft's development. Since Turkey is a "Level-3" partner in the multinational F-35 project, Turkish defense companies even produce high-end SOM-J missiles for the program. The country took delivery of its first F-35 fighter jet at a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 21, 2018.
With the aim of mitigating the possible threat to the F-35 program, Turkey might seek to create alternative solutions, such as deploying the S-400 in another region. Even if this move would ease U.S. concerns over the F-35's security, it does not resolve the problem of the CAATSA sanctions.
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